Local hospitals report area aware, not scared of flu virus

Monday, May 4, 2009

People living in Southeast Missouri appear to be taking reports of a new flu virus in stride.

While hospital officials from New York to California say emergency rooms are being swamped by frightened patients, Cape Girardeau's hospitals are not seeing that.

Southeast Missouri Hospital spokeswoman Sally Owen said people who arrive with flu symptoms "are checked, obviously" but there hasn't been a spike in flu-related visits.

Saint Francis Medical Center spokeswoman Emily Sikes said "people are talking about it, but not getting hysterical about it -- because it's not something to get hysterical about."

Missouri Department of Health and Human Services announced Sunday the state has about eight cases, with four confirmed and four probable cases undergoing tests.

As of Sunday night, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had confirmed 226 cases of the virus in 30 states. A toddler from Mexico visiting family in Texas died from the virus April 27.

The new flu, first identified in March, appears less severe in the United States than in Mexico, where it has been linked to dozens of deaths. The virus was initially called "swine flu" because pigs first developed it from type A influenza viruses. A virus can mutate until is can make a leap to a human, and change again to can spread from person to person through coughing and sneezing. Symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. Some have reported diarrhea and vomiting.

The virus can be limited by frequent handwashing, covering your nose and mouth with a tissue while coughing or sneezing and avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. People also should stay home if they feel ill to avoid infecting others.

pmcnichol@semissourian.com

388-3646

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